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Just acquired a dream coin!


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As many of you know, I collect coins attributable to people during the time of Philip II, Alexander III, and the Age of the Diadochi, and I also collect cities from that time.

Naturally, Nikokles of Paphos was high on that list. He was king of Paphos from some time likely before the death of Alexander to 309 BCE. Like many during the time, Nikokles decided to try his hand at playing both sides, so while he was allied with Ptolemy he attempted to make a deal with Antigonos.

When Ptolemy found out, he surrounded Nikokles' palace and ordered him and he brothers to commit suicide. After they had complied, Nikokles' wife killed their daughters, then she and the other women barricaded themselves in the palace and set fire to it, so even their bodies wouldn't fall into enemy hands.

So, with a story like that, one of his coins was a high priority.

Now, it's no secret that attributing tetradrachms in the names and types of Alexander is tricky and continues to be debated, but in Nikokles' case he made it easy. Engraved in mega-tiny letters on the lion's mane are the words "NIKOKΛEOYΣ". This made me want one even more.

Unfortunately, they don't come on the market too often and when one appeared at an NAC auction, I debated placing a minimum bid - which itself would have been higher than my budget - but ended up not. My suspicions turned true when it went for 20K and I realized then it was unlikely I'd have a chance at one given the current market. So, I filled his place by making some assumptions on bronzes at this time.

Then, to my amazement one showed up on VCoins. It definitely had wear but the price was extremely reasonable, so I debated for all of two seconds and bought it.


Nikokles of Cyprus
AR silver tetradrachm
Struck at Paphos, Cyprus, 325-317 BCE
Head of Herakles right, wearing lion's skin headdress; on lion's mane, faint letters NIKOKΛEOYΣ at the highest points (and as such worn nearly illegible).
Reverse - BAΣIΛEΩΣ AΛEΞANΔPOY Zeus seated left; holding eagle in right hand and sceptre in left; ΠΑΦ monogram for Paphos in left field, and below the throne, a laurel spring.
Price 3123. May, Paphos 7, pl. 1, 9. Tziambazis 11. Very rare. 26mm, 17.0g


In May's article, he mentioned the presence of several Nikokles coins in the Demanhur hoard, dated to 318-319 BCE. Given how tiny the inscription is, so small that modern numismatists didn't notice it until the end of the 19th century, it seems safe to assume that Nikokles wasn't given permission to do this. May supposes that Nikokles wouldn't have dared to do this while Alexander was alive, but took advantage in the confusion after his death. Since no types exist with the inscription that can be dated to after 320 BCE, May dates these to between 323-320 BCE.

The inscription was also no accident or engraver's mark. It appears on several different issues and across a great many coins. Clearly there was a need for funds given the size of the coinage. In terms of why the inscription stops, given that Nikokles was still king from 320-309, May suggests that either Ptolemy or Antigonos noted the inscription and ordered him to stop, or the need for the currency finished.

One great fascination I've had for this inscription is that I'd never seen it. Even from examining photos of the top quality specimens on ACSearch, I couldn't see it. I also researched it, but the papers that mention it just say where it is and offer no photo. From reading, the majority of these types are so worn that the inscription is illegible, and the seller disclosed that such was the case with this coin. However, I felt that there must be some traces of it left, so I brought out a more powerful lens. I believe I've found a few traces shown below.


I admit that it's very tough to make it out but I believe what I've circled are the remnants of letters. In the second strand, I'm a bit unsure where the letter is, but I think it's the circled one below.

This coin has also made me wonder about this coin already in my collection.


Kings of Macedon. Alexander III ‘the Great’
Tetradrachm Silver, 27 mm, 17.11 g, 12 h
Salamis, struck under Menelaus, circa 315-306
Head of Herakles to right, wearing lion skin headdress.
Rev. AΛEΞANΔPOY Zeus seated left on low throne, holding long scepter in his left hand and eagle standing right with closed wings in his right; to left, monogram and rudder; below throne, monogram of ΠE.
Price 3165. Light marks and with traces of overstriking


Clearly this tet was struck over another tet, also in the names and types of Alexander. Could Menalaus have done this to wipe out currency still bearing the name of Nikokles? It's impossible to say since little remains of the original tet, but it could have happened.


May, J. M. F. “THE ALEXANDER COINAGE OF NIKOKLES OF PAPHOS: WITH A NOTE ON SOME RECENTLY IDENTIFIED TETRADRACHMS FROM THE DEMANHUR FIND.” The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society, vol. 12, no. 42, 1952, pp. 1–18. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/42662996. Accessed 2 Sept. 2023.

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